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Helping seniors with medical expenses

Age Concern has teamed up with a local physician to help seniors with medical expenses.

JJ Soares, who runs Hamilton Medical Centre, is offering free consultations to uninsured or underinsured seniors referred to him by the charity.

“We've believed for a long time that the elderly need assistance; they've worked very hard all their lives and have formed the backbone of this society,” Dr Soares told The Royal Gazette .

“We wanted to give something back and thought that Age Concern was the obvious partner for that.”

Dr Soares said the elderly strike him as being in particular need because they pay into their insurance premium all their working lives, yet risk ending up with inadequate coverage once they retire because they have to shop for an individual policy, which can be “prohibitively expensive”.

In order to assist, he has arranged to see a few patients per week for a free consultation. According to Age Concern's executive director, Claudette Fleming, the organisation will be vetting who it sends to Dr Soares through its call centre.

“There is nothing worse than getting a call from a senior and going to the trouble of listening to their concerns and not being able to help them,” she said. “This offers an opportunity to provide some concrete assistance for people in this category.

“We will check to see that it is a legitimate hardship and then we will refer the patient on.”

According to Ms Fleming, some people are refusing to go to their doctor because of the cost involved.

“What ends up happening is — if they go without the services they require — it tends to be more expensive when they finally do access medical treatment.

“It's in our best interests, it's in the best interest of the country quite frankly, the taxpayer, that we pursue avenues that will get them the help that they need as soon as possible.”

While the charity works with other partners such as law firms and insurance companies using the same framework, this is the first partnership of its kind it has entered.

And in a time of rising medical costs and more people seeking specialist treatment, Ms Fleming said it provides an opportunity to use local resources and help those who may not be able to take advantage of them without cost being an issue.

“We don't want to discourage people from using the system that we have because cost is a barrier,” she added.

“We do have a medical community that cares, that wants to see a shift in the way that we're doing things now and hopefully that will be better for Bermuda overall.”

Dr Soares said most doctors in Bermuda see patients suffering hardships and will help them financially.

“All the doctors' training is such that you have to look out for your fellow man, that's what being a doctor is all about,” he said. “The advantage of this [partnership] is that Age Concern will vet the most needy cases, those people who are falling through the cracks.”

And Dr Soares has already seen his first referral. “That man was so grateful it made me feel wonderful about being a doctor,” he said. “It was so rewarding.”

But Ms Fleming stressed that they are still encouraging people to get medical insurance.

“When you reach an age like that there's really no substitute for that, so we will work with those individuals at the very least to get financial assistance, or whatever other means are possible through their own assets, to pay for their health insurance premiums,” she said.

Ms Fleming added that Age Concern also has a hardship fund and will work with other organisations if there is a dire need for medical assistance.”

For more information, contact the charity on 278-7525 or e-mail info@ageconcern.bm

Dr JJ Soares and Claudette Fleming. (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

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Published January 27, 2016 at 8:00 am (Updated January 27, 2016 at 4:41 pm)

Helping seniors with medical expenses

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